Unit 2 Sessional Faculty vote in favour of strike action

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Hamilton, ON – 13 May 2022 – The front-line instructors responsible for a significant proportion of undergraduate teaching at McMaster University have concluded a strike vote after three days of online voting.  Sessional Faculty and Hourly-Rated Sessional Music Faculty at McMaster University, comprising CUPE Local 3906 (Unit 2), voted 85% in favour of providing their Bargaining Committee with a strong strike mandate should negotiations the table with the McMaster Administration fail. 

The Local witnessed a record number of members participating in the vote between May 10th and 12th, held online due to pandemic safety measures. “The bargaining team is grateful that a record number of members demonstrated such strong support for the Union’s proposals on the table,” says Chris Fairweather, the Local’s President. This strong mandate speaks to the sky-high inflation rates faced by members, the increasingly precarious nature of employment at postsecondary institutions, and the compensation restrictions imposed on public sector workers by the Ford government’s ‘Bill 124’ legislation. At the same time, the Employer refuses even to discuss options for retirement security and improved job security for members, many of whom have spent decades working at McMaster.

This 85% strike mandate highlights the Employer’s need to take members’ concerns to heart immediately or face job action.  The Employer must work with the Union to find ways to improve job security to support Sessionals in continuing to provide the high quality teaching excellence on which McMaster prides itself as one of Canada’s top-ranked employers.  “We have also seen the Employer issue significant pay increases to upper management and administration over the past few years,” says Fairweather. “Now that we are coming out of our mandatory wage-restriction period, our members – who often juggle multiple jobs – deserve wages gains that address the realities of inflation and keep pace with a rising cost of living in the spirt of respect, equity, and inclusion,” he adds.

The results of this vote do not mean that a strike is forthcoming, but empower the bargaining team to call a strike should further negotiations not provide meaningful gains to members. The employer walked away from our last meeting on April 27th after one hour of bargaining, declared an impasse, and filed for conciliation. The next step in the bargaining process is conciliation, in which a Provincially-appointed conciliator will meet with the parties.

Local 3906 is eager to put the support of its members into action at the bargaining table and is committed to membership engagement throughout the process. Please watch for further updates and additional bargaining support initiatives.

CUPE Local 3906 (Unit 2) represents over 600 Sessional Faculty and Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario each academic year.

Contacts: 

Chris Fairweather, President – president@cupe3906.org

Brad Walchuk, Staff Representative- brad@cupe3906.org

A PDF version can be found here: https://bettermac.ca/files/2022/05/CUPE-3906-strike-vote-release-final-2022.pdf

Unit 2- Bargaining Bulletin #6 (May 5, 2022)

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Your bargaining team met with the Employer’s team on April 27th. Unfortunately, that session lasted for less than 1 hour. Your bargaining team tabled a fair and reasonable package that continued to emphasize your key priorities. In particular, this includes improved job security and meaningful wage increases. We also made considerable movement on some priorities; for example, we are now proposing a working group to meet on retirement security over the next four years instead of proposing an immediate pension.

The Employer has no interest in expanding our job security, no interest in any sort of retirement security, and no interest in a wage increase that comes anywhere close to the rapidly rising cost of inflation. Despite making some movement to present a focused offer that addresses your major priorities, the Employer believes that we have reached an impasse in bargaining and decided to walk away from the virtual bargaining table and file for conciliation. Quite simply, the Employer does not want to bargain with us any longer, which is a shame, because we are committed to continuing to work toward a fair and equitable settlement.

“Conciliation” occurs when one or both Parties believe that they have reached an impasse and require assistance reaching an agreement from a government-appointed Conciliation Officer. A Conciliation Officer helps the parties try to work through the impasse and reach a settlement, but they cannot force the Parties to come to an agreement or make decisions about what proposals will form the Collective Agreement. The Parties are required to participate in Conciliation prior to either party triggering a strike or lockout.

In order to be successful at conciliation, it is unwise for the Union to enter Conciliation without a successful, strong strike vote.  The only way to make any movement on our key priorities at this point is with a demonstration of the members’ support through a successful strike vote. A conciliation officer will help the parties to work to a fair resolution, but they – and the Employer – need to know that the membership is behind their bargaining team. That is why the Union is calling for a strike vote.

A strike vote does not mean that our Union is going on strike. It is, however, the bargaining team is asking you for your support to call a strike in the event that talks with the Employer break down at the bargaining table. We believe that a strike vote will give us the added leverage that we need to secure a fair collective agreement. A strike would only occur if the talks break down and the bargaining team determines that the Employer is unwilling to provide a fair offer.

What is a stake? A lot! Below is a chart outlining some of the key priorities that remain on the table. Based on the results of the bargaining survey, you directed your bargaining team to secure meaningful wage increases, make improvements to job security, and explore options for retirement security. Despite meeting with the employer on 14 occasions since last summer, the Employer is unwilling to put forward a package that addresses your priorities in any substantive way.

 

Issue Your Union’s Position  The Employer’s Position
Wages Year 1 and 2- 1% per year

Year 3 and 4- 5% per year

Year 1 and 2- 1%

Year 3- 3%

Job Security- First Consideration Increase 4 automatic appointments to 6 automatic appointments during Enhanced First Consideration Phase No Improvements to Job Security
Job Security- Right of First Refusal Introduction of an ongoing right of first refusal following completion of Standard and Enhanced First Consideration No Improvements to Job Security
Job Security- PhD Appointments Limit of 2 PhD appointments without posting per department No Improvements to Current Language
Retirement Security Introduction of a Committee to discuss options for retirement security options over the duration of the agreement Unwilling to discuss options for retirement security with the Union
Large Class Stipend Yearly increase from $2.00 per student per unit to $2.25/$2.50/$3.50/$4.50 per student per unit, make it available to all sessionals Status Quo of $2.00 per student per unit, available only to some sessionals
Training Fund Training fund beginning at $5,000 per year, increasing to $15,000 per year in 2024 Unwilling to agree to continuing finance the training fund
Term/Duration 4 Years (2021 to 2025) 3 years (2021 to 2024)

As a result, your Union is calling for a strike vote. The strike vote meeting will occur at a virtual meeting being held online via Zoom on Tuesday, May 10th at 2 p.m. The vote itself will occur online after the meeting (beginning at 4 p.m.) and will continue until 11:55 p.m. on Thursday May 12th. All eligible members will be sent a registration link for the Zoom meeting as well as an electronic ballot via Election Runner for the strike vote.

We encourage members to vote “YES” in the strike vote to send the Employer a strong message. It is the best way to secure a fair and reasonable agreement that provides you with the gains that you deserve!

 

Unit 2 Strike Vote- Information and Instructions

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Based on our most recent bargaining session with the Employer, your Unit 2 bargaining team has elected to call a strike vote.
The strike vote meeting will occur at a virtual meeting being held online via Zoom on Tuesday, May 10th at 2 p.m. The vote itself will occur online after the meeting (beginning at 4 p.m.) and will continue until 11:55 p.m. on Thursday May 12th.
All members in good standing are able to vote. That is, those members who are currently employed, who have a contract in hand for the upcoming semester, or who have worked as sessional faculty within the past two semesters (fall 2021 in winter 2022).
All members in good standing will receive a ballot sent to them electronically by Election Runner. If you believe you are entitled to vote and do not receive a ballot, please contact Brad@cupe3906.org
Balloting for the strike vote will  begin shortly after the strike vote meeting held on Tuesday, May 10 and will continue until 11:55 PM on Thursday, May 12. Results will be announced thereafter. We cannot guarantee the exact time that you will receive the ballot.
The strike vote meeting on Tuesday will consist of the bargaining team discussing the issues currently at the table and explaining the context for the strike quote. All members are entitled to vote, regardless of whether or not you attend the meeting. We would certainly encourage you to attend the meeting to meet a more informed choice.
Please note that you may need to look in your junk/spam folder for a ballot.

We encourage members to vote “YES” in the strike vote to send the Employer a strong message. It is the best way to secure a fair and reasonable agreement that provides you with the gains that you deserve!

Unit 2 Bargaining Bulletin #5 (March 30, 2022)

Brad WalchukUncategorized

The Unit 2 Bargaining Team met with the Employer March 10, 2022, to receive the Employer’s latest proposal package. Unsurprisingly, there were few changes to the Employer’s previous proposals in years 1 and 2 of the agreement. (The Employer maintains its position that those years must be compliant with the 1% limitation on wages and total compensation mandated by the Ford government’s Bill 124. Unit 2 Members have already completed 1 full year under the 3-year legislative mandate in the 2020-2021 academic year.)

We have seen minor improvements in the Employer’s position on wages in the proposed third year of the agreement (from a 1.75% wage increase to the base rate of pay to a 3% wage increase to the base rate of pay). Despite the increase, this falls well short of the rate of inflation, and we are continuing to push for a higher wage increase. The Employer’s package includes some positive movement where we have asked for greater clarity in hiring practices and the provision of resources (especially technological resources and technological assistance) to members (where the Employer mandates the use of certain technologies and software), and guidelines for requests made of members by the Employer for the creation of deferred exams.

Also, we continue to discuss the importance of improvements to existing benefits funds, and would like to continue to hear from you about where benefits funds would be most useful (i.e., more health care spending reimbursements, funds for gender affirmation, etc.). It is thanks to your ongoing support and feedback that we are able to make any improvements, and we would like to continue to hear from you about what kinds of improvements would make the most impact for you. Please let us know by contacting Walter at mobilizer@cupe3906.org, Carolyn at chiefsteward_sessionals@cupe3906.org, or staff@cupe3906.org.

Although talks continue, the Employer remains unmoveable on issues of job security, retirement planning, and even basic equality and respect. Members have shown their dedication to McMaster for years, and even decades.
For example, members can miss out on a portion of supplementary student fees (i.e., the fee paid to members for each student in excess of 75 students) to the degree that their rate of pay exceeds the base rate of pay. (We are trying to change this so that all members have equal access to the supplemental fee language.) Unit 2 members miss out on the opportunity to plan for retirement by virtue of working contract-to-contract, even when they work at McMaster with the same colleagues for 10, 20, and even 30 or more years next to colleagues who enjoy employer-assisted retirement savings. Improvements to these areas of inequality would show respect to our members on behalf of the McMaster Administration.

Your colleagues on the Bargain Team strongly believe that more respect needs to be shown to you through the contract, especially considering the imposed restrictions of Bill 124. The Employer must recognize our members’ diligent work in our agreement–recognition that your colleagues on the bargaining team feel has been neglected by the Administration for a long time. This has had a negative impact on health, research, and professional development which is the backbone of higher education. Recognition is beneficial for both the University and its teaching staff.

A PDF version can be found here.

Unit 2 Bargaining Bulletin #4 (December 22, 2021)

Brad WalchukUncategorized

It has been a few long months of negotiation and research for our CUPE 3906 Unit 2 Bargaining Committee. As you have likely heard through our ongoing phone calls and personal emails, we left the table in August with a request for more detailed information from the Employer to draft proposals that comply with what is commonly referred to as “Bill 124”.

Bill 124 refers to the Ontario Conservative Party Government’s restriction to increases to wages and other Collective Agreement entitlements to a maximum of 1% per year over a 3-year “moderation period”. Unit 2 has already been through one year of these restrictions, and we have two years remaining under the legislation (i.e., until September 2023). The legislation also restricts unions’ abilities to “make up” for the three years of restrictions in the year following the restriction period. (It is unclear what exactly is prohibited under this portion of the legislation.) This legislation makes negotiating meaningful improvements in the first two years of the Collective Agreement extremely difficult.

The Bargaining Team has spent weeks trying to maximize the gains in years 1 and 2 in creative ways, and offering proposals in year 3 that take into account the consequences of inflation and underfunding in several benefits. Items such as improvements to job security cost the employer nothing, but they continue to say ‘no’ and seem content with the current level of precarious work.

Even our proposals that deal with equity between Sessional Faculty and other employees on campus—such as recognition for our members who have been teaching for five, ten, and even thirty years or more—have not
been adopted by the Employer. We met with the Employer again on December 6th and 9th, 2021, with a modified package of proposals to attempt to meet the employer’s proposals partway, but unfortunately the Parties were not close in key priority areas such as Job Security, Wages, and Retirement Security.

The employer continues to say ‘no’ to improvements to job security, ‘no’ to meaningful retirement security, and insists on keeping wage increases to a minimal level that falls well below inflation. We are continuing to negotiate, but we are getting to the end of what can be negotiated without arriving at an impasse. In the event that the Parties reach an impasse, the Bargaining Team may request a Strike Vote from Members.

A strong Strike Vote gives the Bargaining Team the option of calling a Strike in the event that talks break down entirely at the table. It does not automatically lead to a strike, but demonstrates that the Union and its members are serious about their proposals in the process of Conciliation (or else the Employer “holds all of the cards”). Conciliation is a process involving an authorized third-party Conciliation Officer who attempts to guide the Parties to an agreement. If an agreement is not achieved during Conciliation, either Party can file a “No Board Report”, which is a document filed with the Government that starts a 17-day countdown to a legal strike by the Union or a lockout by the Employer.

The Bargaining Team anticipates more bargaining dates in the Winter Term and we are asking for your continued support. It is necessary to achieve an improved Collective Agreement that you deserve. Without your demonstration of support, it is unlikely that we will be able to negotiate anything other than a “roll-over” agreement for the next few years. We think you deserve more in wages, benefits, resources, and retirement planning. We think that you deserve to be treated in a way that is more equitable with other instructional staff on campus. The Employer will need to hear your voices united in this demand in the coming weeks.

 

A PDF version can be found here

Bargaining Update- September 2021

Brad WalchukUncategorized

As you likely know, the Employer was unwilling to agree to your most important priorities over the two weeks that the parties bargained in August.

The membership has identified these 6 priorities is key gains to be advanced in the new agreement:

  • Respect, Equity, and Inclusion;
  • Compensation;
  • Job Security;
  • Health and Wellbeing;
  • Workload;
  • Professional Support and Training.

We currently do not have any additional dates scheduled with the Employer. Your bargaining team is determining next steps of how to best proceed.

CUPE Sessional Faculty: Collective Bargaining Update #3

Brad WalchukUncategorized

CUPE 3906’s Unit 2 Bargaining Team met again with our counterparts from the McMaster University Administration for three days of negotiations between August 23rd and August 27th, 2021.

Progress at the table was slow, but the Parties arrived at some agreement in administrative and procedural areas such as Information, the Grievance Procedure, and Equal Pay. Unfortunately, the Employer continued to refuse to provide meaningful gains to your priority areas, including Job SecurityPensions, and Professional Supports.

CUPE 3906’s team presented our first full monetary pass and was working on a counter to the Employer’s response.  The parties left the table on Friday evening (August 27th), with plans to continue negotiations, although no dates have been set.

Although the Employer has not taken an aggressive stance with outright concessions this round, they do not seem to be very receptive to improvements in member priority areas, and see the existing agreement as acceptable for the next three years.  We disagree. The Employer is also firm on fulfilling its legal obligations to restrict wages and compensation for the next two years under the Conservative’s infamous Bill 124.  CUPE is one of several Unions signed on to a constitutional challenge of the legislation, which limits the rights of Public Sector workers to bargain in a free and collective manner.  As CUPE Ontario President, Fred Hahn, has pointed out, the legislation makes it impossible for front-line Public Sector workers to keep up with inflation, which is currently over 3%.

“It’s very frustrating to be forced to work within the imposed legislative restrictions while facing the Employer’s seeming lack of interest to make improvements even to non-monetary language that would make the lives of some of its most precarious employees less stressful,” says Mary Ellen Campbell, CUPE 3906 staff.  “Negotiations are the only time when we can make secure gains for our members that are guaranteed under the Collective Agreement, and we can’t afford to wait another three years to make improvements.”

“Some of our proposals, including a targeted pension benefit, actually require very little effort or cost on the part of the Employer, but offer a world of difference to our members, some of whom have been working for McMaster University for 20 or even 30 years or more with nothing to show for retirement,” says Sharoni Mitra, CUPE 3906 President.  “McMaster likes to claim that it treats its employees equally, but even this ask, which is much less than what most of our counterparts across the table enjoy, seems to have no traction with them.”

CUPE 3906’s team will solicit dates to continue negotiations with the Employer into the fall term.  We will continue to update members on our progress, and encourage you, the members, to show your support for your elected bargaining team by joining our bargaining support committee, following our progress and activities on email and social media, and keeping in touch with comments and questions by emailing mobilizer@cupe3906.org.  It’s your contract!

Our next Bargaining Support Committee Meeting will be scheduled soon- an email with the date/time will follow.

Sessional Faculty, Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty, and MELD Sessional Faculty working at McMaster University comprise CUPE 3906’s Unit 2. The current collective agreement expires on August 31.

A PDF version of this update can be found here..

Bargaining Bulletin #2

Brad WalchukUncategorized

HAMILTON, ON — August 19, 2021

CUPE 3906’s Unit 2 Bargaining Team met with their counterparts from the McMaster University Administration on three days this past week to begin this year’s round of bargaining.

The Union’s team presented a package that reflects the bargaining priorities that members approved earlier this summer. These priorities include: 1) Respect, Equity, and Inclusion; 2) Compensation; 3) Job Security; 4) Health and Wellbeing; 5) Workload; and 6) Professional Supports and Paid Training.

The Union’s package reflects and addresses the needs identified by the membership in survey taken earlier this year.  The existence of Bill 124, a piece of legislation passed by the Ford government that restricts wages and compensation to a maximum of 1% will present a challenge to the bargaining team, though at this point the Employer is not even offering union members a 1% total increase to compensation.

A number of unions, including CUPE Ontario, are challenging the legislation, which we believe is a violation of workers’ collective rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Over the first three days of bargaining, the parties were able to secure agreement on some smaller changes that will provide some benefit to the members, including improvements in the No Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Harassment article, as well as in the Health and Safety article.

McMaster did not address many additional proposals, including those reflecting the membership’s main priorities, in a meaningful way. “It was frustrating, to say the least,” explained Sharoni Mitra, the president of CUPE 3906, adding that “McMaster seems content with the status quo, which sees precarious workers struggling for job security and left without many of the benefits and entitlements – such as access to a workplace pension – that virtually all of the members of the Employer’s bargaining team enjoy.”

“We hope that the Employer will find a way to meet us on our proposals,” continued Mitra. “We expect the Employer to take seriously our proposals to improve both monetary and non-monetary language in the Collective Agreement. This round of bargaining is a chance for the Employer to demonstrate its concern and respect for its highly precarious workers.”

Sessional Faculty work is notoriously precarious, with instructors often working at two or more postsecondary institutions to make ends meet. This precarity, along with the Employer’s reliance on legislation that we believe is unconstitutional to supress wages and deny well-deserved gains, will be a consistent challenge the Union will confront at the bargaining table.

“Our proposals reflect the pivotal work performed by Sessionals,” said chief negotiator Brad Walchuk. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with an institution that refuses to improve job security and provide basic entitlements for a group of highly-educated workers. We refuse to take ‘that’s not something we’re prepare to agree to’ from the Employer as its default answer to any proposal that will provide a meaningful gain”

The next bargaining dates with the Employer are scheduled for August 23rd, 25th, and 27th. For more information on how you can help with the bargaining support team, email bargainingsupport@cupe3906.org

Sessional Faculty, Hourly Rated Sessional Music Faculty, and MELD Sessional Faculty working at McMaster University comprise CUPE 3906’s Unit 2. The current collective agreement expires on August 31.

A PDF copy is available by clicking here.

Bargaining Testimonial- Job Security

Brad WalchukUncategorized

“Job security means, to me, that I don’t have to re-apply for my job every four months.  More importantly, it means I have some certainty in knowing that I will have a job to return to each year.  It means not having to guess if there will be courses to teach and if the departments I’ve worked in will hire me back or not.” -Dr. Tim Fowler, Faculty of Social Sciences and DeGroote School of Business